Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo who was convicted last year of taking bribes from companies with business before the state, was formally disbarred by an appellate court in Albany on Thursday.
The decision was just a formality, the panel said; Percoco’s felony conviction last March triggered an automatic disbarment under the state judiciary law.
Percoco was convicted by a federal jury of accepting more than $300,000 in bribes from two companies with business before the state. His trial, which spanned eight weeks, ended with his conviction on three counts of bribery, though the jury cleared him on another three counts.
The Attorney Grievance Committee for the Appellate Division, Third Department had also moved to have Percoco’s name stricken from the roll of attorneys in New York, a request the panel of judges granted on Thursday. They said the charges Percoco was convicted on were similar to others that would prompt the motion.
“Based on the plain language of the statutes, we find that they are essentially similar for purposes of automatic disbarment insomuch as they both proscribe the same conduct; that is, the solicitation or acceptance of a bribe by a public servant with the understanding that his or her conduct as a public servant will be influenced,” the appellate division said.
The decision means that when Percoco is released from prison, he will not be allowed to practice law in any capacity in New York. He represented himself before the panel, according to the decision, and consented to his disbarment.
Percoco is currently serving a six-year prison sentence at the Otisville Federal Correctional Institute in Orange County. He reported to the facility last month after months of delay following his sentencing in September.
His attorneys had sought to allow Percoco to remain out on bail while his conviction is appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, but the federal appellate court denied that request and ordered his sentence to begin in March.
The appeal isn’t expected to be decided anytime soon; Percoco’s attorney is scheduled to submit his brief to the Second Circuit in late May. His attorney, Walter Loughlin, is expected to present arguments in the brief on why his conviction before the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York should be thrown out.
U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni, who presided over the trial, also issued a decision last week that will require Percoco to forfeit $320,000 from the scheme, which his attorneys had argued against. They had agreed to forfeit $35,000 initially, which Percoco was convicted of accepting from COR Development, a developer from Central New York that sought money from the state for ongoing development projects.
They hit a road bump with the other $285,000 Percoco was convicted of taking. Those payments were made to Percoco’s wife over 38 months from Competitive Power Ventures, an energy company that wanted to build a power plant in the Hudson Valley. The company provided Lisa Percoco a low-show job in exchange for Percoco’s influence over state officials, according to federal prosecutors.
Percoco’s attorneys had argued that because his wife had performed some amount of work for the company, she should be allowed to keep $95,000. That would mean Percoco would have forfeited $225,000.
Caproni rejected that argument, saying that all the money collected through the scheme should be forfeited because it wouldn’t have been paid out if there was no criminal activity in the first place.
“This is a case in which Lisa Percoco would never have been hired in the first place were it not for the bribery scheme,” Caproni wrote. “Thus, because the job itself was obtained as the result of the scheme, all salary paid as part of that job represents the gross proceeds of the offense.”
Percoco was a top aide to Cuomo during his first and second terms in office, and managed his campaign in 2014. He had once served as executive deputy secretary to the governor, a powerful position whose holder is often considered an important adviser in the executive chamber.
Cuomo, who has been close with Percoco for more than two decades, was not accused of any wrongdoing by federal prosecutors.
Barry Bohrer, an partner at Schulte Roth & Zabel, had represented Percoco at the district court.